Tuesday 20 March 2018

Wallaby Lealiifano to ease Ulster fly-half fears

Australian international Christian Lealiifano. Photo: EMPICS Sport
Australian international Christian Lealiifano. Photo: EMPICS Sport
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Ulster are set to sign the versatile Australian international Christian Lealiifano on a short-term contract in a bid to ease their problems at out-half.

The Brumbies captain will join Ulster in time for their Guinness PRO14 opener against the Cheetahs on September 1.

With Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding unavailable pending legal proceedings and Ruan Pienaar having been controversially let go from the club, Les Kiss's options at out-half are extremely limited.

Youngsters Johnny McPhillips and Brett Herron, who have both recently played with the Ireland U-20s, are the only recognised 10s available to Kiss.

New scrum-half John Cooney could also provide cover but that is far from an ideal scenario.

Lealiifano, who can play in midfield or at out-half, was diagnosed with leukemia last year but has made a full recovery to return to action with the Brumbies.

Last summer he underwent a successful bone marrow transplant with his sister but even still, his ability to return to professional rugby has been heralded as one of the finest comeback stories in recent times.

The Australian Rugby Union are understood to be open to the move as it will allow the 29-year-old to get more game time during the Super Rugby off-season.

The move is due to be confirmed at a press conference today which would mean that Lealiifano could soon link up with his new Ulster team-mates.

Lealiifano has won 19 international caps and last played for the Wallabies against England in June 2016.

Ulster have been in the market for a new out-half for a while and earlier this month the club's CEO Shane Logan admitted that they had been struggling to find a suitable player to bring to the Kingspan Stadium.

"We've been looking at recruitment in the fly-half position, as we do for all key positions, for well over a year," Logan said.

"We've had our radar out there. This is a difficult time to recruit when pretty much everyone is in contract, but we're hopeful of making a positive announcement sooner rather than later."

Ulster will be looking for Lealiifano to hit the ground running in the brief stint that he will have with the club, after which time they will be hoping to have Jackson available again for selection.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport